Your full marketing funnel guide for your home and garden business
If you ever want to send an elder millennial screaming for the hills, ask them to assemble a BRIMNES storage bed from IKEA.
That same millennial will tell you how they chipped their LACK side table the day they got it, just after their meltdown over the 40-step instructions for their HEMNES dresser.
IKEA may still be one of the largest home and garden retailers in the world, but the multinational conglomerate’s popularity during the first two decades of the millennium could be starting to backfire—giving today’s smaller businesses an edge.
“People are tired of throwaway junk,” Susan Inglis, executive director of the Sustainable Furniture Council, told CNBC, “and the furniture industry as a whole did itself a disservice years ago by trying really hard to move towards furniture that one would throw away.”
Consumers are now willing to pay more for home furnishings that are unique, long-lasting, and environmentally sustainable. But we won’t sugarcoat it—the home and garden category isn’t for entrepreneurs who want to make a quick buck.
Consumer expectations, supply chain logistics, and high competition are serious challenges for home and garden businesses. The ones that are succeeding are doing it by doubling down on their niche, customizing their products, and using dynamic imagery to entice consumers.
This full marketing funnel guide for home and garden will show you how to use these tactics to stand out in your category.
The home and garden numbers: omnichannel is the way
When the pandemic hit and consumers were forced to shop online, it seemed like ecommerce for the home and garden category was poised to explode.
And it’s not that it didn’t—large retailers like Target, Home Depot, and Lowe’s all reported sales jumps during the pandemic that continues today. It’s just that ecommerce hasn’t come close to replacing physical retail when consumers are shopping for home furnishings.
According to Statista, furniture and homeware ecommerce sales made up 17.28% of total retail ecommerce sales in 2021. That’s not bad, but it’s down from 18.57% in 2020—and it’s expected to decline even further in the next few years.
But there’s still a sizable online market for the home and garden category. In 2021, furniture ecommerce revenue in the U.S. totaled $132.7M, and that number is expected to reach $208.2M by 2025.
So what does it mean? Online sales are a great complement to physical retail—and an omnichannel approach is a must for the home and garden category.
Click and collect, otherwise known as “buy online pickup in store” (BOPIS), is becoming a consumer favorite—especially for younger generations. In 2021, 63.2% of millennial home furnishing consumers bought items online and picked them up in-store, while 45.2% of Gen Z did the same.
Our own data on email marketing benchmarks by industry for Q222 indicates that consumers like to engage online with home and garden brands, but they’re more likely to convert via offline channels.
Open rates and click-through rates enjoy higher-than-average metrics compared to overall benchmarks—51.43% vs. 50% and 6.24% vs. 5.85%, respectively—but conversion rates are lower than industry-agnostic averages.
Still, some brands in the category are truly winning their niche with marketing strategies that support both online and offline conversion.
From building audiences to retaining them, this guide will use real-life examples and expert advice to break down how the best brands in the category are creating exceptional online buying experiences that make consumers happy to engage.
Building an audience
The first two stages of the customer lifecycle are awareness and acquisition. When you’re focused on these stages, you’re working on:
- Increasing traffic to your website through search, referrals, advertising, and good press
- Growing your email and SMS lists through website pop-ups and referrals
Home and garden brands build audiences by encouraging email referrals and optional SMS sign-ups.
Referrals are the result of innovating within your niche. When you’ve created a home and garden product that makes it easier to manage a home task, improves the aesthetics of personal space, or does something no home gadget has done before, you’re more likely to build an audience through referrals.
Bonus if you can nudge people to sign up for your SMS list through an optional form field, too.
Here, we’ll focus on brands that create an ideal environment for email list referrals and SMS sign-ups through simple yet enticing asks.
Key takeaways from this section
- Encourage referrals in your welcome email series to build your audience.
- Adopt an audience-first approach to email referrals by allowing referrers to include a personal note to their friends.
- Take every opportunity to prioritize customer messages over brand messages.
- Include optional SMS sign-up fields with required email sign-up fields on your website to start segmenting your audience early.
Our Place: referrals as personal notes from friends
Our Place, maker of the pink Always Pan that took over Instagram feeds in 2020, approaches audience building in all the classic ways you’d expect: an inviting form in the footer of their website, warm copywriting, and collaborations with the likes of Selena Gomez. But it’s their approach to referrals that sends their email list numbers to new heights.
When you subscribe to Our Place’s email list, you’ll get $20 off your next purchase if you refer your friends. While the discount is a standard deal sweetener to nudge people toward the next step, the extra-mile list-building mechanism is the impression that the recipient is getting a personal note from a friend.
“You’ve been invited by a friend who thinks you’ll like Our Place. We’ll let them take it from here.” Our Place executes an audience-first approach to the referral, knowing that words from a customer are always worth more than words from a brand.
80 Acre Market: segmenting audiences early
You never get what you don’t ask for, and 80 Acre Market is asking for your phone number.
With an optional form field as part of their email sign-up, 80 Acre Market is segmenting their audience at the acquisition stage of their marketing funnel. SMS lists are a great way to collect Customer-First Data because people don’t just give their phone number to any brand—they must be really into you if they want to see you in their text messages.
SMS lists contain your audience VIPs, which you can convert later with special offers and exclusive access to sales and new products.
The brilliance of 80 Acre Market’s approach is that the SMS subscription is just a bonus. You don’t need to sign up for text messages to sign up for their email list (and get 15% off!), as only the email form field is required—and the brand doesn’t trick you into thinking you need to input your phone number for the deal after you’ve submitted your email.
80 Acre Market also takes care to explain, directly on the form, how people can opt out of text messages if they change their mind—increasing the likelihood they’ll sign up for a low commitment.
Overall takeaway: When you’re building an audience, you’ll attract more fans with empowerment than persuasion. Find a way to hand over the reins to your audience at the acquisition stage, and you’ll be more likely to engage with them on a meaningful level later.
Engaging with your audience
It’s exciting when someone gives you access to their inbox or text messages, but that doesn’t always mean they’re ready to buy. At this stage, you’ll need to show your audience how your brand can fit into their lives—or, in this case, their homes.
When you’re engaging your audience before conversion, you’re focused on:
- Learning more about audience behavior through website metrics (time on site, number of pages viewed, etc.) and Customer-First Data
- Increasing open rates and click-through rates on welcome series emails
Home and garden brands engage audiences through education on industrial design, sustainability, and niche DIY living.
Potential buyers in the home furnishings category need to understand how they can maximize use of your products to improve life at home. Younger, environmentally conscious audiences are especially interested in unique, quirky items that will last for many years and are easy to repair rather than easily thrown away.
Competition is fierce in the home and garden category, but some brands are differentiating themselves through their educational content. Here, we’ll focus on brands that excel at engaging their audiences by teaching them the value of home furnishings that last with proper maintenance and care.
Key takeaways from this section
- Disrupt the conventions of the home and garden category by educating audiences about how your products will stand the test of time.
- If your brand is committed to authentic sustainability goals, feature that narrative prominently in your pre-purchase engagement flows.
- Show audiences how your industrial design philosophy is smarter than your competitors’.
- Treat your newsletter like a masterclass in your niche. If you have the resources, invest in high-quality DIY videos that can double as YouTube SEO engines and email click-through magnets.
- Create product maintenance videos for YouTube to encourage positive reviews in the comments—and respond to all of them.
Floyd: countering the IKEA narrative
Every part of Floyd’s brand is about environmental sustainability. Floyd’s differentiator as a furniture company is its “systems for living,” which uses clever industrial design to make sure all pieces are neutral enough to fit into any home so they can be passed on and reused.
As part of their Earth Day engagement flow, Floyd ditches the product shots for report graphics that educate people on furniture disposability. Did you know furniture waste in landfills has grown by 250% since 1960? Now, because of Floyd, you do.
Following in Patagonia’s footsteps, but for the home and garden category, Floyd doesn’t treat their sustainability narrative as a flash in the pan. Their engagement series carries over seamlessly to their website through sustainability goals and impact reports.
Similar to Patagonia’s clothing repair service, Floyd launched their Full Cycle refurbishment program to give people the option to shop for used and returned furniture at a lower cost—a great option for climate-conscious Gen Z folks who don’t yet have a disposable income.
Made In: linking email and video as a masterclass in cooking
Subscribing to Made In Cookware’s newsletter means you’ve signed up for a masterclass in cooking led by professional chefs. Throughout the series, you’ll learn how to pan roast lamb, perfect paella heat technique, make a butter sauce—and properly care for the kind of high-quality pans sold by Made in Cookware.
Designed like a magazine, Made In’s Chef’s Notes newsletter is something cooking enthusiasts save for their Sunday morning reading and watching. Embedded in every newsletter are videos from Made In’s YouTube channel (18.6K subscribers) that are just as engaging as anything you’d see on the Food Network.
What’s particularly encouraging about some of Made In’s engagement metrics is that many of their cookware maintenance videos have more views than their pro chef tutorials.
This video on how to pan roast lamb, for example, has racked up 29K:
Not bad—but this video on caring for your carbon steel pan has more than double that many views at 78K:
Not only that, but Made In’s YouTube comments are doubling as product reviews. Some of the video’s top comments are from people expressing their love for Made In’s customer support and carbon steel pan. Made In’s engagement team responds to every such comment with a like and a note of appreciation.
Overall takeaway: Treat your audience like avid students of your niche, and fold in your products where they can fit comfortably within that education.
Converting your audience to customers
Similar to the sporting goods category, purchase decisions in the home and garden category can take a long time (longer if you’re buying furniture, not as long if you’re buying a plant).
How long does it typically take customers to make a purchase decision after the first interaction with your brand? You’ll want to build your email and SMS flows to reflect this cycle.
When you’re moving people toward a purchase, you’re:
- Increasing return on advertising spend and decreasing customer acquisition costs
- Implementing browse abandonment and abandoned cart series that contain multiple touchpoints
- Increasing conversion rates on product announcements
- Using product reviews to build trust
- Making the check-out process as easy as possible
Home and garden brands move audiences to purchase by making it easy to compare products against their lifestyle.
YouTube is full of home furnishing unboxing videos and product reviews. Successful home and garden brands lean into this trend and allow their audience to compare product features down to the last detail.
Here, we’ll focus on brands that leverage comparison shopping and product alternatives to nudge their audience toward a final purchase decision.
Key takeaways from this section
- Use surprising stats and eye-catching feature comparison charts to demonstrate how your product is better than the industry standard.
- Build on feature comparisons by sponsoring influencers to create product reviews on YouTube, where people are most likely to search for home furnishing reviews.
- Use browse abandonment or abandoned cart emails to offer prospects alternatives to what they didn’t buy instead of only reminding them what they left behind.
Caraway: positioning ceramic cookware against industry-standard Teflon
When most of us think of a no-stick pan, we think of Teflon. For years, Teflon has been a standard part of any home kitchen—until people started going back to ceramic cookware.
As Caraway takes audiences through its general education flow, the brand quickly communicates how their ceramic cookware compares to Teflon.
In this conversion email, they catch the eye with a bold claim: 95% of cookware on the market is made with known toxic chemicals like Teflon. An eye-catching comparison chart goes into more depth, positioning Caraway cookware as a non-toxic, eco-friendly, oven-safe alternative to Teflon.
When you check YouTube to see if the narrative carries over, you’ll find an interview with Caraway founder Jordan Nathan, who was exposed to Teflon poisoning after forgetting an empty pan on his stovetop. Yikes.
A possible next step for the brand would be to show how their ceramic pan compares to others on the market. If only Caraway could package up this creator’s Always Pan comparison as a follow-up email…
Dot & Bo: using abandoned cart emails to present alternative products
Abandoned cart emails work. In the home and garden category, they enjoy a 3.73% conversion rate.
You may see a lot of abandoned cart emails express dismay over all those products just sitting there, sad and alone in their virtual shopping carts. A more effective route may be to go beyond reminding the customer their product is still available by providing them with alternative products they might want instead.
In fact, 49% of consumers have purchased a product they didn’t initially intend to buy after receiving a personalized product recommendation.
That’s what Dot & Bo does with this abandoned cart email for a wicker pendant light. The brand puts itself in the place of the customer and considers the reasons why they might have left the product behind. Maybe the customer would prefer a different style, for example—so Dot & Bo offers two alternatives underneath the abandoned product.
Overall takeaway: People love to compare products in the home and garden category. Lean into the trend and offer feature comparisons and product alternatives to mirror the journey your audience is already taking to purchase.
How to follow up with post-purchase information
If you’re focused on your post-purchase experience, congrats! You’re making sales. Now’s the time to create a great post-purchase flow so you can earn product reviews, get more referrals, and increase customer lifetime value.
Creating an exceptional post-purchase flow for the home and garden category means:
- Sending confirmation emails when orders have been received and shipped, with a tracking number.
- Setting realistic and transparent expectations about time of delivery, especially amidst supply chain disruptions.
- Reminding the customer about your returns and exchange policy.
- Communicating when an item has arrived—especially for high-ticket items, like a piece of furniture that could be sitting on someone’s doorstep.
- If applicable, sending assembly and care instruction videos in email.
- Collecting Customer-First Data when the customer is excited about the product (more on that later).
- Encouraging product reviews and referrals two or more weeks after delivery.
Beyond standard post-purchase information, home and garden brands create exceptional experiences by showing customers how to maximize use of their products.
People care about their home furnishings because they use them often and share their personal space with them.
Here, we’ll focus on brands that create excitement by continuing to educate their customers as part of the post-purchase experience.
Key takeaways from this section
- If it makes sense for your product, send care instructions in multiple formats (text and video) as part of your post-purchase flow.
- If you sell similar products that require different types of maintenance and care, encourage your customers to set up an account where all instructions are centralized. Bonus: You can run your loyalty program out of this same account.
- Repurpose educational video content from other parts of your marketing funnel for your post-purchase experience.
- Invest in high-quality graphic design to simplify post-purchase instructions in an email.
The Sill: helping plant parents keep their babies alive
The Sill understands that not everyone has a green thumb. That’s why the brand has invested heavily in plant care education as part of everything they do, from their Instagram account to their email flows.
When you purchase a plant from The Sill, you’ll receive personalized instructions to care for the plant you ordered. The Sill’s post-purchase email also encourages the customer to sign up for a Sill account so they can see all their plant care instructions in one place—very convenient if you have multiple plants with different watering schedules.
From the brand’s perspective, what’s great about The Sill’s post-purchase experience is that most of the content is repurposed from other parts of the marketing funnel. When someone buys a button fern, for instance, they receive care instructions as part of their post-purchase experience—but they could easily have stumbled upon the same video when deciding which plant is right for them.
Never be afraid to repurpose great content from other parts of your funnel. If your pre-purchase education series would improve your post-purchase experience, don’t assume you can’t use it because the customer may have seen it before.
AllergyBuyersClub: emailing the anti-IKEA instruction manual
IKEA created an entire generation of people who shudder at the sight of a thick instruction booklet (did we mention the HEMNES dresser has 40 steps?!). If you sell a product that requires assembly, your top priority is to make that assembly as painless as possible.
AllergyBuyersClub gets top marks for their post-purchase email instruction manual, which simplifies the assembly process with minimalist graphic design and copy instructions. When a customer receives the email, they can breathe a sign of (allergy-free) relief that their purchase decision was the right one.
Overall takeaways: Customer education doesn’t stop at the engagement phase of your marketing funnel. If you can educate customers on how to maximize use of their home furnishings—and simplify it—you’re setting yourself up for repeat purchases and higher customer lifetime value.
use of their home furnishings—and simplify it—you’re setting yourself up for repeat purchases and higher customer lifetime value.
How to collect first-party data
Customer-First Data—the combination of zero- and first-party data—is information the customer hands over voluntarily. Unlike third-party data (information you collect indirectly from a variety of sources), Customer-First Data is information you source directly from potential and existing customers.
The first-party data piece of Customer-First Data is an essential component of audience segmentation, which is usually based on directly observable behavior like purchasing trends, website activity, email and SMS engagement, and customer service interactions.
First-party data can usually provide answers to the following questions—and many more:
- Who has or hasn’t made a purchase?
- How long do they wait before ordering again?
- How much money are they spending, and when, and why?
- Who has a habit of buying only during gift-giving holidays?
- What makes someone unsubscribe?
- Are people more likely to open transactional emails, but more likely to click on promotional or educational ones?
- What makes someone bounce, and what makes them buy?
Your online store, ecommerce customer data platform, and any integrations you use on the back-end (like your 3PL, loyalty program tools, customer review tools, etc.) are a good place to start looking for these kinds of valuable first-party data points.
Home and garden brands also improve personalization efforts by collecting zero-party data from customers about characteristics and preferences like:
- Living space type: house, apartment, etc.
- Lifestyle: homeowner, long-term renter, renter who moves frequently, etc.
- Home DIY enthusiasts vs. casual buyers
- Product category interest
Here, we’ll focus on a brand that takes this knowledge to new heights with open-source satellite imagery, property data, and soil information.
Key takeaways from this section
- Collect Customer-First Data to serve your shoppers more relevant recommendations.
- Develop educational content that’s personalized by product type.
- Collect email addresses and phone numbers, and create ways to further engage subscribers and educate them about your brand.
- Create experiences that expand beyond the first brand touchpoint, and ensure you provide support at the right time in the buyer’s journey.
Sunday: using open-source satellite data to deliver custom lawn plans
Sunday’s digital experience is personalized from the start. When you land on Sunday’s homepage, you’re invited to input your address in exchange for a custom lawn plan.
When you input your address, Sunday uses open-source satellite imagery, property data, and soil information to create a custom lawn plan that’s right for your property. After Sunday sends an aerial view of your home like the one below, you’ll confirm they got it right before providing your email address and joining their welcome series.
After confirming your information, Sunday’s welcome email contains signs of self-awareness that no one is ready to buy based on a few clicks and some home surveillance. Sunday gives their audience the chance to learn more about the company with a founder video and some customer reviews.
Sunday’s call to action at the bottom of their welcome email is old-school and personalized: They want you to call them.
The company understands that a lot goes into lawn care, and you’ll need to talk to an expert who can expand on many aspects of your custom lawn plan. Sunday already has some information on your lawn, and the next step is to complete the process with next-level customer service.
Overall takeaway: Collect Customer-First Data in order to personalize your communication with potential customers from the start, but think beyond the first touchpoint and offer a customer service option to help people assess the needs of their personal space vs. the features of your product.
Delivering personalized experiences through behavioral segmentation
Segmentation is the foundation of strong and scalable personalization. Highly segmented campaigns return more than 300% of revenue per recipient compared to unsegmented campaigns.
When you’re focused on segmentation, you’re focused on:
- Creating segment conditions based on website activity, personal attributes, geography, event lists, SMS opt-ins, etc.
- Identifying engagement tiers to suss out who’s more likely to buy
- Developing email and SMS campaigns to match your most sizable segments
- Testing segment performance and doubling down on campaigns that work
Here, we’ll focus on a brand that prioritizes the browsing process when collecting Customer-First Data, so they can deliver hyper-relevant offers to high-potential customers.
Key takeaways from this section
- Decide how to segment your audience according to different buying behaviors, interests, and preferences.
- Tailor your email automations to customer segments, and adjust the language based on their differing interests.
- Repurpose content when you can throughout the marketing funnel.
Smart Home Beveiliging: tailoring content to product interest through segmentation
Smart Home Beveiliging, a home security business based in the Netherlands, converts 50% of their email subscribers into customers. The brand focuses on splitting their email audience by product interest so they can deliver more relevant offers.
“We split the welcome flow based on what products people are viewing,” says Dennis Kroon, co-founder, Ecommerce Accelerator (Smart Home Beveiliging partner). “Say you’re looking at security cameras—we’ll send you a guide on how to make the right decision when buying a security camera. Or if you’re looking at a smart doorbell with a camera inside it, we’ll send you a guide about the doorbell instead.”
Earlier, we looked at how The Sill repurposes education videos for their post-purchase experience. Smart Home Beveiliging’s content investment is just as robust with the development of product guides, but they focus on splitting up content delivery based on which products people are considering.
The investment in content development is no joke, but the late-funnel results are worth it for the brand. By segmenting their audiences, Smart Home Beveiliging is better able to cater to their unique audiences through their browse abandonment emails.
And this strategy is paying off: Smart Home Beveiliging’s browse abandonment emails see an average open rate of more than 60%, the brand reports—and 2.4% of those readers convert to customers.
“We’ve set up a category-specific browse abandonment flow,” Kroon explains. “Whenever someone views a security system but doesn’t buy one, for example, we send them an email a day later and offer to help them with choosing the right security solution for their home.”
Overall takeaway: Use Customer-First Data to segment your audience by product or category interest. From there, you’ll be able to deliver hyper-relevant offers to the most interested segment of your owned audience.
Retaining customers and growing lifetime value
Your best customers are the ones who buy more than once. They’re more likely to leave reviews, send referrals, and talk about your brand on social media. On the topic of segmentation, you’ll want to talk to your customers differently than your pre-purchase audience.
When you’re focused on retention, you’re:
- Up-selling customers on accessories or other complementary products
- Increasing conversion on restock alerts
- Increasing engagement on win-back flows
- Cleaning your lists and increasing engagement on sunset flows as a last-ditch effort to re-engage subscribers
Home and garden brands retain customers and grow lifetime value by mastering the product bundle. Brands in this category love the restock alert and the complementary product cross-sell. Here, we’ll focus on a brand that has mastered both formats with sleek, eye-catching email design that exudes sophistication.
Key takeaways from this section
- Create urgency in your restock alerts to encourage people to take action before the item is out of stock again. Urgency equals high demand equals high quality.
- Be specific when referencing the last time an item was fully in stock, to anchor urgency to a specific timeline.
- Bundle your products and offer a discount as a way to sell complementary items after a purchase.
Modern Fuel: using urgency and bundling to encourage cross-selling
Modern Fuel pens are gorgeous, and so are their emails. With beautiful product shots and dark-mode email design, Modern Fuel’s restock alerts grab your attention right away.
But it’s the urgency that encourages the customer to take action. Modern Fuel’s restock alert says, “The last time everything was in stock was in January, and that didn’t last long, so if you’ve had your eye on a pen or pencil that was out of stock, here’s your chance.”
As a follow-up, Modern Fuel sends a cross-sell email for its pencil stand, calling it “the perfect complement.” The brand treats the product stock as a “celebration” and offers the customer a bundle on the pencil, stand, eraser plug, and engraving for a savings of $75.
Overall takeaway: Treat restock alerts with a sense of urgency, and offer product bundles that make sense for how your customers use your products.
Prep for the future of home furnishings
The home furnishings industry isn’t what it used to be. The brands that succeed in this industry need to match product quality with consumer expectations while also creating exceptional customer experiences along the way.
Using owned marketing channels like email and SMS marketing will allow help future-proof your business. The next step is making sure your tech is ready to support you.